Thursday, May 31, 2012

Desecration of Humanity

"When I regained consciousness, I looked around, and I found my daughters dead.  One of them - her hand was cut off.  My cousin and her four sons were killed.  My sister and her six-week old daughter were killed.
"I want someone to save us.  Where can I go, where in the world is there anyone to protect us?  What is the guilt of a six-week-old child?" 
This, the plaintive cry of a mother of four daughters, herself initially shot through the hand, who fainted and when she was revived discovered there was no one left alive.  As dreadful as the murders were that took place in her home, the mind that conceived of allowing this woman to remain alive so she would relive the horror day in, day out, of the day her family was destroyed, reveals the depth of hatred involved.

This is a hatred so dense and intense, so deep and so affecting that it consumes both protagonists; which just happen to be tribal people who passionately worship the very same god, but the misfortune lies in the fact that they worship Islam from a different perspective; one Sunni, the other Shia, and its offshoots.  Fed from infancy from the deep dish of contempt and hatred for the other, they view each another as sub-human, as foetid, intolerable insults to Allah.

The woman who survived believes that the armed gangs who arrived in Houla from nearby villages after the withdrawal of Syrian regime troops were Alawites loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.  First the bombardment of tank and artillery fire, which killed only a handful of people.  And then the arrival of those dispatched to come in close and personal and complete the carnage by hand, with knives and with guns. 

She fled to the roof of her house to look out on the scene of chaos below. "I looked out from the rooftop, and I found them burning the houses around.  They killed the Othman family, who lived next door."  And even as rescuers came on the scene, they found paramilitaries running through the streets in numbers they were unable to confront.  They heard the screams of children calling for their mothers, and even then the shells were falling all about, smoke rising from bombed-out homes.

They hid, the would-be rescuers, witness, they claim, to what transpired further, for the action continued for hours upon weary hours.  "For hours I heard the screams of women and three times of children, and always gunshots.  Then the voices stopped.  The silence was the most terrible thing.  We moved into the first house.  There were bodies everywhere."

"I can never forget what I saw in Houla.  It keeps coming back to me, every horrible detail.  What happened is unimaginable.  It is not human."  But, in fact, it is very human.  We would prefer it not be, but the reality is that this is what humans do to one another.  Most humans are restrained by the civilizing effects of living in places of the world where such intolerable actions do not occur.  But this, of course, is a part of the world where they do occur.

The world at large now knows what Syria is capable of producing.  The shabiha militias that follow in the wake of the government forces act in concert to protect their minority interests in a country that is long accustomed to seeing the majority Sunni population in thrall to the minority Alawite leaders.  And this is a formula that is reflected in many other Middle East Muslim countries. 

And this is human nature, unchecked by civility and decency and compassion.

And, uncuriously enough, here is a statement from one man from Houla, speaking to Alex Thomson, chief correspondent of channel 4 News in Britain:  "When this is over and this is settled and we are victorious, we will kill them.  We will slaughter them and we will slaughter their children.  We hate them."

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Netanyahu to Abbas: 'Give Peace a Chance'

by Gabe Kahn Netanyahu to Abbas: 'Give Peace a Chance'

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday said he believes his 94-seat super-coalition is a historic opportunity – and mandate – for peace.

"On the peace process," Netanyahu told attendees at an Institute for National Security Studies conference in Tel Aviv. "We are 94 Members of Knesset. This is an opportunity to advance the peace process, an opportunity which may not repeat itself, in my opinion, in the next ten years."

"Waiting and inaction lead to the mere illusion of quiet. We're on borrowed time," Netanyahu warned. "We will get stuck in a corner, or we'll arrive at a wall, and we'll pay the price… some people today prefer to settle in a coma…"

Netanyahu explained his clear departure from the Likud's traditional dedication to greater Israel in favor of the so-called two-state solution as a means of avoiding the creation of a binational state.

"A peace agreement with the Palestinians is necessary first and foremost to prevent a bi-national state," he said. "It is preferable to live in peace. Peace is better than any other situation, but we need to prevent a bi-national state, as well as strengthen the future of Israel as a Jewish and democratic country."

Netanyahu also invoked his Bar Ilan speech, in which he indicated a willingness to cede most of Judea and Samaria while retaining the major Jewish settlement blocs, and control of the Jordan Valley. It is unclear, however, if Netanyahu would annex the Jordan Valley, or simply maintain a military presence there.

"We do not want to rule over the Palestinians, nor do we want the Palestinians to be citizens of the State of Israel," he said. "That is why three times – in my speech at Bar Ilan, in my speech in the Knesset and later in my speech at the American Congress – I declared that I support and welcome peace between two nation-states – a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state, and Israel, the nation-state of the Jewish people."

"I believe there is very broad support among the people for such a peace agreement," he repeated, adding "One based on mutual respect and security for Israel. By security, I mean substantive security arrangements on the ground that provide a response to the ongoing threats and any new threats that are introduced.

Netanyahu also sought to shift the onus for negotiations to Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who has used a laundry list of preconditions as a fait accompli to forestall talks and pursue a unilateral track.

"I believe that the unity government under my leadership is an expression of this broad support, and I call again on Mahmoud Abbas not to miss this unique opportunity and give peace a chance," Netanyahu said.

"Let me clarify – I have not set any conditions to enter into negotiations," he said, repeating his willingness to begin negotiations immediately. "Certainly I will have conditions to conclude negotiations, and so will Mahmoud Abbas.  This is natural and it is the reason we conduct negotiations.  But this is why I say to Abbas – don't miss out on this opportunity to extend your hand in peace."

"If I had to say it another way," Netanyahu said, quoting  the 1969 John Lennon single, "I would say, 'President Abbas, all we are saying is 'give peace a chance.'"

"This is a real opportunity.  It will not necessarily be repeated in general or political history, but it exists now and peace negotiations need two sides. One side is ready and willing. Peace between Israel and the Palestinians is in the clear interest of both peoples."

Critics of Netanyahu's push to pursue peace say he has failed to adjust to the clear unilateral paradigm adopted by senior PLO officials - and that his government has not shifted its strategic posture to secure Israel's interests as a result.

Abbas continues to demand Israel accept the indefensible pre-1967 lines as final borders, release all Arab terrorists from its jails, and halt construction for a second time before talks begin.

The previous 10-month construction freeze in the 'disputed territories' by Israel was not only rebuffed, but met with Abbas failed unilateral statehood bid at the United Nations last September.

They did not define "popular resistance," regional observers note Article 9 of the PLO charter continues to assert, "Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine. This it is the overall strategy, not merely a tactical phase.”

It also maintains “Palestine” is defined by the British Mandate and is “indivisible” – thus leaving no room for Israel to exist at all. PLO officials have refused to amend their charter numerous times since the 1993 Oslo Accords were signed.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said at the same conference, "If it is impossible to reach an agreement with the Palestinian [Authority Arabs], we should consider an interim arrangement, or even a unilateral disengagement."

As published online at ArutzSheva, 31 May 2012

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Sampling World News: May 2012

United States:  Controversy over the "birther" movement hung over a meeting Tuesday between Mitt Romney and Donald Trump.  Mr. Trump has again raised doubts about whether Mr. Obama was born in the United States.  Mr. Romney has said he believes Mr. Obama was born in the United States, but he has drawn fire from Democrats for not distancing himself from Mr. Trump.  National Post news services

London:  The parents of six children killed in an arson attack on their home were arrested Tuesday on suspicion of murder.  Mick Philpott, 55, and his wife Mairead, 31, were detained over the house fire in Derby, central England.  The victims, whose ages ranged from 13 to 5, died after the fire, which police said was started with gasoline.  Agence France-Presse

Cairo:  Egypt's Islamist presidential candidate Mohammed Mursi sought Tuesday to reassure Coptic Christians and women, who fear a conservative Islamist in power could threaten their freedoms.  "Our christian brothers, let's be clear, are national partners and have full rights like Muslims", he said.  Mr. Mursi is to face Ahmed Shafik on June 16-17.  Agence France-Presse

United States:  A Texas teenager has been jailed for 24 hours and fined $100 because she missed school to work at two jobs to support her family.  Diane Tran, 17, a straight-A student, breached the state's truancy law.  "She goes from job to job from school", said Devin Hill, a classmate.  An online campaign to support the teen has raised $28,000.  The Daily Telegraph

Italy:  The death toll stood at 17 with several people still missing, in the wake of the second deadly earthquake in nine days to strike a section of Italy that had not considered itself particularly quake-prone.  One of the victims was a priest in the small town of San Felice Sul Panoro, who reportedly ran back to his church to retrieve a Madonna statue.  Reuters

United States:  The nude assailant who almost killed another man over the weekend by biting his face off was identified by Miami police.  The aggressor, Rudy Eugene, 31, was shot dead by police who said he had devoured almost the entire face of his victim.  The unidentified homeless man, who also was naked during the attack, remains hospitalized and fighting for his life.  Police ordered Eugene to stop the assault, then fatally shot him when he continued to gnaw at the face of his victim.  Reports suggested Eugene was likely under the influence of the synthetic stimulant "bath salts", which produces an often aggressive, chaotic experience for users, coupled with intense hallucinations.  Agence France-Presse

Italy:  When Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg took his new wife to lunch during their Rome honeymoon he spent just $40 - and did not leave a tip.  The owners of the kosher restaurant Nonna
Betta in the city's Jewish Ghetto were surprised when Mr. Zuckerberg, and Priscilla Chan walked away without leaving a gratuity.  The Daily Telegraph

Britain:  British MPs have suggested that calling someone "fatty" or "obese" should be considered a hate crime on a par with racism or homophobia.  A report by an all-party parliamentary group on body image has recommended that the government investigate putting "appearance-based discrimination" on the same legal basis as race and sexual discrimination.  The Daily Telegraph

Syria:  Houla massacre: "When I regained consciousness I looked around and I found my daughters dead.  One of them - her hand was cut off.  My cousin and her four sons were killed.  My sister and her six-week-old daughter were killed.  I want someone to save us.  Where can I go, where in the world is there anyone to protect us?  What is the guilt of a six-week old child?"  The Daily Telegraph

United Nations:  Zimbabwe's tyrannical leader on whom there is a travel ban as part of sanctions relating to his oppressive rule that has ruined his country's economy, left its agricultural sector in tatters, his people on the cusp of starvation, fuelled crime, brought the country to a 95% unemployment rate with massive inflation and epidemic medical emergencies, has been named by the United Nations as its co-ambassador of its tourism branch. 

Palestinian Territories, West Bank:  Israel will hand over the remains of scores of Palestinians killed during anti-Israeli attacks.  "There will be an official ceremony and funeral prayers", said Palestinian prisoner affairs minister Issa Qaraqaa.  Among them are eight members of a seaborne squad which took over a Tel Aviv hotel in 1975 before being killed by Israeli commandos in a raid in which seven hostages were also killed.  The return of the bodies was announced May 14 by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office as "a gesture to President Abbas." Agence France-Presse

Thailand:  A Thai court handed an 8-month suspended sentence to a website editor for failing to quickly remove posts deemed offensive to the monarch in a case that adds to growing debate over Thailand's royal censorship laws.  The Bangkok Criminal Court ruled posts on the Prachatal news website were offensive to the royal family and its editor, Chiranuch Premchaiporn, failed to remove them promptly, as requested by the court.  Thailand has some of the world's toughest laws to penalize insults against the king, queen and crown prince, but critics say the legislation is used to discredit activists and politicians opposed to the royalist establishment.  Agence France-Presse

Russia:  A Russian court jailed an activist Wednesday for 15 days after finding him guilty of spitting on a portrait of President Vladimir Putin.  Magistrates in Cheboksary, about 680 kilometres south of Moscow, found Dmitry Karuyev guilty of minor hooliganism, after he "deliberately spat at a portrait of Vladimir Putin", according to the local advocacy group Shield and Sword.  It posted the magistrate's court statement condemning the 20-year-old for "breaching public order, expressing clear disrespect for society", while taking part in a protest on the eve of Mr. Putin's inauguration as president on May7.  Agence France-Presse

Poland:  "When someone says 'Polish death camps', it is as if there were no Nazis, no German responsibility, as if there were no Hitler", Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk, said in strenuously objecting to President Barack Obama's speaking of "Polish death camps" in the Second World War, during a White House ceremony honouring a Polish resistance hero among the first to warn the Allies of the systematic slaughter of Jews in the Nazi concentration camps.  "We cannot accept such words even if they are spoken by the leader of a friendly power ... since we expect diligence, care and respect from our friends on issues of such importance."  The Daily Telegraph

Washington:  The massive earthquake and tsunami that hit Fukushima, Japan, last year wreaked havoc in the skies above as well, disturbing electrons in the upper atmosphere, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration reported.  The waves of energy from the quake and tsunami that were so destructive on the ground reached into the ionosphere, a part of the upper atmosphere that stretches from about 80 to 805 kilometres above Earth's surface.  Images released by NASA showed how the earthly disturbances from the March 11, 2011, quake and tsunami were echoed in the movement of electrons far aloft.  Reuters


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Turkish Women Unite and Rise, Aroused by Indignation

"Caesarian births and abortions have legal footing in Turkey.  The prime minister's attempt to change the country's agenda by attacking women is a grave mistake. 
"In such a party congress, the prime minister should have talked about women's problems including unemployment, domestic violence, of their inadequate standing in political life, instead of making politics over women's bodies."  Canan Gullu, Turkish Federation of Women's Associations
Nor has Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan endeared himself to the female deputies representing the opposition Republican People's Party.  Who have chosen to word their protest differently, in a full frontal championship of women's rights against the misogyny of an Islamist, with the statement that Mr. Erdogan "give up standing guard over women's vaginas."

Mr. Erdogan stated his opposition to women giving birth by Caesarian section, speaking before a population conference held in Ankara.  He spoke also of his feelings that abortion represents a conspiracy to hamper his country's economic growth.  Turkey's women rights advocates don't very much appreciate their president's equating abortion with murder.

"You either kill a baby in the mother's womb or you kill it after birth.  There's no difference", he stated unequivocally, with all the weight of his Islamist credentials and his political office full-square in authority. 

Speaking to the women's branches of his ruling Justice & Development Party he was pleased to clarify the issue further: "Every abortion is an Uludere", referring to an incident where 34 Turkish smugglers died in air strikes that his military mistook for Kurdish militants.  In response, women protested with banners reading "Is the right to abortion the prime minister's business?"

"Uludere is murder, not abortion", and "It's our womb, we have Caesarian delivery or abortion."

The prime minister would far more prefer Turkish women to be biddable, respectful of the dictates of Islam, not continually hearking back to the days of Turkish secularism.  Turkish women, according to his interpretation of what good Muslim women should be invested in, should have at least three children. 

Women in Turkey appear to think otherwise.  Figures latterly reveal abortions rising in the country, from roughly 60,000 in 2009 to an additional ten thousand (70,000) two years later.  Caesarian births in the country now represent half of all deliveries.

Obviously women consider themselves in Turkey a force of nature to be reckoned with, not patronized or controlled, but respected for their choices.  Prime Minister Erdogan appears unaware of the hornet's nest he has messed with. 

Multiple stings can be deadly.

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Friends and Allies

"The Assad regime has imported Hezbollah militants to help crush the opposition.  Based in Lebanon, the Shia Islamist terrorist group has dispatched fighters to support Assad's military campaign in areas near the Lebanese border.  These Lebanese surrogates are reportedly sometimes accompanied by Iranians, who also serve as technical advisers in training Syria's security services to monitor communications and ferret out opposition leaders."  James Philips, Washington Heritage Foundation
This, added to the boast of the deputy commander of Iran's Quds force of the Revolutionary Guards, who spoke to the Iranian Students News Agency, telling them "Thanks to Iran's presence in Syria - physically and non-physically - big massacres were prevented", speaks volumes.  Iran, of course, would know all about big massacres.  The country's long and bloody war with Iraq saw more than enough atrocities.

But there are those who saw the mutilated bodies of almost fifty children and 35 women among the 108 Syrians slaughtered in Houla who might take exception to the boast that a 'big massacre' had been averted, thanks to the presence of Iran's military dispatched to aid and assist their ally.  These were, after all, Sunni Syrians who had been deprived of their lives. 

And it is the Shia component of Islam that rules and shelters itself within Iran and Lebanon, and which rules Syria.  The incendiary hatred between the sects is well enough acknowledged; Bahrain has managed for the time being, to tamp down a protest led by its Shia majority attempting to resist a continuation of the oppressive rule of the Sunni minority. 

Saudi Arabia and Qatar sent in their troops to aid Bahrain in restoring order.  And all is now well.  Though now and again, resentment raises its ugly head in a semblance of the Arab Spring that has succeeded elsewhere in destabilizing once stable albeit tyrannically-led countries.  Which have exchanged their original brutish dictators for alternate, Islamist ones.

The entire Middle East, the majority of which is Sunni, shudders in dread of Iran possessing nuclear weapons.  A misconception, to be sure, since Iran protests its innocence; its interest, as a major oil-producing state, in nuclear is simply for domestic energy and medical needs. 

Saudi Arabia stubbornly sticks by its misconception, clarifying its future intentions to include its own nuclear weaponization program should Iran be permitted to persist and triumph in achieving nuclear devices.  Stealth and patience can work wonders on the unwary and the trusting.  Honour and credulity in the West is not quite reflected in a like manner in the East.

Meanwhile, this sinister proxy war goes on, with Saudi Arabia and Qatar filtering weapons through to the Syrian rebels.  And Russia doing the honours for the Syrian regime in defiance of the UN's calls for an arms embargo on the country.  Russia defending its shipments of arms to Bashar al-Assad, protesting that the regime is defending itself against terrorists.

The Syrian port of Tartus comes in handy for unloading military equipment and ammunition from Russian-owned cargo ships.  In the same token, Russia secures a Mediterranean base for its navy in the Middle East.

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Iran Thinks US and Israel Unable to Attack, Says Barak
by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu Iran Thinks US, Israel Can’t Attack, Says Barak

Iran is convinced that Israeli and the United States are unable to stage an attack on its nuclear facilities, Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) Wednesday morning.

He added that Iran is only trying to buy time while it tries to reach the point where it cannot be successfully attacked and can develop the capability to manufacture a nuclear weapon.

Speaking at an INSS conference at Tel Aviv University, Barak warned, “The Iranian threat is significant and is not disappearing. We are at a fateful crossroads." Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spelled out at the conference Tuesday night Israel’s demands from the world powers trying to reach an agreement with Iran over international supervision of its nuclear program. Iran already is enriching  20 percent grade uranium, a key element for a nuclear weapon, and Israel wants it to be restricted to "zero enrichment."

“Why not draw clear red lines,” Barak said in his lecture, adding that the Iranian Ayatollah and his aides “are not dumb and correctly understand [their nuclear program] is being exposed and that action might be taken to endanger their progress.

Barak also warned, “The practicality of their actions is to buy more time until it is immune to an attack and can take the additional step of manufacturing a nuclear weapon.”

He explained that the  “Iranians work systematically and  patiently” towards their nuclear objective.

The Defense Minster said the world’s objective must be “to stop Iran from gaining nuclear capability, and no option should be taken off the table.”

He said that besides the Iranian threat, Israel faces other challenges from terrorism in general and from the entire situation in the Middle East.

Noting that he and Prime Minister Netanyahu do not “take decisions by ourselves in some dark room," Barak declared, “The government of Israel is responsible for taking decisions on the future of the security f the country – and I carefully add for the Jewish people, most of whom live in our tiny country.”

As published online at ArutzSheva, 29 May 2012

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German President Warns: Iran Threatens 'New Shoah'
by Rachel Hirshfeld German President Warns: Iran Threatens 'New Shoah'

Germany is "very concerned" about Iran's nuclear program posing a threat to Europe, as well as the Middle East, German President Joachim Gauck said in Jerusalem on Tuesday, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.

"I'm very concerned about Iran's nuclear program. It represents not only a concrete danger for Israel but for the whole region and potentially even for us in Europe," he said upon meeting Israeli President Shimon Peres.

He nonetheless asserted the need for finding a diplomatic solution to the conflict.

"Germany is committed to a diplomatic solution based on sanctions," he said, referring to increased sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic by Western powers in an effort to curtail the regime’s nuclear ambitions.

"Iran's president is threatening a new Shoah. We cannot ignore that," Gauck said.

"The commitment to Israel's security and right to exist is a determining factor of Germany's politics."

During his visit, the German President visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum and met with the families of the slain Israeli athletes, who were murdered by Arab terrorists during the 1972 Munich Games 40 years ago.

He also met Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Opposition leader Shelly Yachimovich, an official statement said.  

Peres welcomed the German premier saying, “During the 47 years of diplomatic relations between our two countries, we have built an extensive network of close ties that are not solely reserved to statesmen and diplomats, but also encompass our two peoples.”

“Within this framework there is the need for an open, sincere and candid dialogue among German and Israeli youth, in which they will discuss the past and build the future,” he said.

As published online at ArutzSheva, 29 May 2012

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Magic Formulae of the United Nations

There's the United Nations again, exercising its clever wit and featuring its brilliance in white-washing the reputations of the world's most egregious human-rights abusers.  They've discovered the magic formula for character-and-reputation redemption.  Simple enough: merely elevate state murderers to the position of United Nations representative, the choices of which are manifold to achieve elevation and esteem within the world community.

In this particular instance, as in so many others, acknowledging discreetly the world's fatigue with human excesses, desperately searching out good-news stories to represent the heritage of humankind, eager to expunge from memory the atrocious ill deeds done by exemplars of unredeemed, primitive bestiality, through presenting those who besmirch the history of humanity as submitting to forgivable anomalies in an otherwise worthy individual.

And so worthy is someone of the ilk of the elderly monomaniacal President Robert Mugabe of dismally unfortunate Zimbabwe that he has been nominated within the United Nations to the honour of being appointed International Tourism Ambassador, alongside, and sharing the honour with Zambian president Michael Sata.  Zimbabwe and Zambia jointly hold the United Nations World Tourism Office (UNWTO) General Assembly for the year to come.

Zimbabwe's tourism and hospitality minister, Walter Mzembi, explained how it was that the two presidents had so vastly impressed the arbiters of choice selection at the United Nations.  The two presidents had impressed by their sagacity in stating that tourism is critical to African development through their choice of nomenclature, naming tourism one of the "four pillars" of economic development.

A brilliant stroke of marketing genius that was destined to bring the two to higher notice, and it most certainly has.  Forgotten the fact that Robert Mugabe's tactics of divide-and-conquer was responsible for the deaths of white Zimbabwean farmers, and whose farms he requisitioned without compensation to be given as gifts to his former fighting partners, who knowing nothing of agriculture, have left the farms fallow.  The country once seen as a regional breadbasket now suffers from lack of food.

Unemployment in the country stands at a whopping 95%, poverty is endemic, health standards almost non-existent, (a cholera epidemic still raging), and crime is understandably rampant.  Tribal violence is exacerbated by political stand-offs, and the country teeters in bankruptcy with sky-high inflation and a worthless currency.  Yet Zimbabwe's Mugabe basks in the confidence that tourists will be anxious to help it increase its economic development.

The United Nations has a long and distinguished history of welcoming some of the world's most vile human-rights abusers to its hallowed halls, and proffering due courtesy, even admiration to them.  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, was invited to address the General Assembly and politely advised the world body that Israel must be eliminated and Iran is prepared to dispatch that honourable duty.

The former chief of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Fatah, Yasser Arafat, a vicious murderer, terrorist, supporter of terror and unabashed scourge on world order and security through the tactics he and his henchmen devised to wreak horror all over the globe, through airplane and ship hijackings, the massacre of Olympic athletes, the encouragement in Uganda of terrorism, was greeted with applause as he addressed the General Assembly.

A frisson of excitement swept through the great chamber as hypocritically and with sinister intent, dove in one hand, pistol securely ensconced where it could be viewed, the man who enjoined the world to respect the PLO for its vision of accomplishing the end of the State of Israel within the Middle East, rejoiced over his expansive and admiring reception.

Both of these behemoths of world disorder and dishonour were sponsored by the United Nations as worthy of respectful attention.  Both exemplified the very worst splurges into violent death-dealing, oppression and misery that the modern world has experienced, each denying, as he bloodied the surface of the Earth, the occurrence of the Holocaust while working assiduously to produce another.

Robert Mugabe is not quite of their order of prominence in world affairs but Zimbabweans are quite capable of testifying as to the inelegant nature of their profound and enduring suffering as a result of
the man's maniacal insistence on retaining power and further destroying his country. And while he continues to do just that, with the glaring ineptitude of his neighbours to convince him otherwise, he is honoured by the world body.

But, no surprise.  This is, after all, an expression of what the United Nations is all about; soothing the hurt feelings and defiance of those innumerable states whose business it is to oppress their populations and destroy any opportunities that may exist for their humane advancement.

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"Appalling Crime"

These are the breathless words of dismay and desperation to solve a dreadful dilemma usually exhaled by a head of the United Nations.  This time they were expressed by Kofi Annan, the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, and former head of the United Nations.  Who doubtless last spoke those very same words as the carnage and bloodshed in Rwanda shocked the world.

And now, it is Syria.  Which defiantly continues its campaign to destroy all those who oppose the Alawite regime of President Bashar al-Assad, industriously proving that he is his father's son, and what was good enough for his father in his relations with the very same Sunni majority who clamoured for his ignominious downfall, is most certainly good enough for him.

The technique may be different, the style is reminiscent of what went before.  And whereas his father butchered some ten thousand people, the son still has 8,500 left to go.  After the slaughter that took place in Houla, the regime withdrew its tanks and engaged in clashes elsewhere, from Idlib to Daraa, to Damascus and back again to Hama.

The Free Syrian Army is bruiting about possible retaliation-in-kind with discussions of attacks against minority Alawite villages, augmenting attacks against regime forces.  The regime speaks of foreign thugs and terrorists attacking Syrians, and the rebels speak of the regime's 'gangs'.  The main opposition group has placed its fighters on notice to "be prepared to liberate Syria from the hands of Assad's gangs."

Hezbollah fighters are known to be present in Syria, assisting the Syrian military.  And with them are Iranian troops of the Revolutionary Guard.  Ismail Gha'ani, the deputy head of the Revolutionary Guard's Quds force claimed: "If the Islamic Republic was not present in Syria, the massacre of people would have happened on a much larger scale."

Russia, which just unloaded weapons from a Russian ship at a Syrian port certainly has knowledge of all that.  And Bahrain and Saudi Arabia both of which have funnelled arms through to the rebels most certainly know all about those complexities as well.  The civil war that has engulfed Syria has no intention of giving way to reason or pleas to desist until one or the other is defeated.

And during the determination of which will succeed, it is entirely feasible that a larger confrontation could take place with the principals seeking the advantage of destroying the appetite for conquest of the other.  Saudi Arabia intent on maintaining its sphere of influence as the Arab League elder statesman, and Iran determined to take its place as the paramount nation of the Middle East.

The 49 children and 34 women among the 108 people who were slaughtered in the town of Houla on the week-end is the beginning of the end, perhaps.  Outrage having been expressed by world leaders, a concerted dismissal of diplomats from countries presage the end of patience and expectations other than ruinously black ones.

Though China and Russia both signed on to the UN Security Council's latest and greatest condemnation of the Houla massacre, Russia continues to defend Syria claiming that both sides bear responsibility.  That is true, of course, both do, but one is a state apparatus while the other represents civil opposition militias; a modicum of decency and decorum is expected of the former, far less of the latter.

Misplaced expectations, at best.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Turbulently Polarized

Now that's one way to bring attention to being put out at the semi-successful appeal and electoral run of a political candidate.  It's not one seen often in polite society, but this is not a particularly polite society.  Egyptians are said to have warm hearts, are welcoming and friendly people at the street level, and know very well how diplomacy works, and have had ample practise in proffering it when required.

These are not friendly times in Egypt, and aggressive need has taken precedence over polite demurrals.  Just as Egyptian Islamists surrounded and scaled the compound of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, attempting to make a political hostage of Israel's ambassador to the country, expressing their displeasure at their own country's arms-length peace agreement with Israel, now too has the campaign headquarters of a former Mubarak colleague been fire-bombed.

Former air force general and vice-president appointed by President Mubarak in the days before he was toppled, Ahmed Shafiq, mentored by Mubarak, and viewing him as a positive example, was the favourite of a substantial number of Egyptian voters.  Coming in second, with a broad portion of the votes cast now counted, his candidacy for president, challenging that of the Muslim Brotherhood's choice, is anathema for those who pioneered Egypt's Arab Spring at Tahrir Square.

Setting the campaign offices of Ahmed Shafiq ablaze can therefore safely be interpreted as a final and absolute rejection of a return in any guise of the former administration of the country.  The Egyptian military will be most upset about this, but then there is nothing particularly new about these sentiments of rejection.  And, as though to emphatically emphasize the extent of the corrosive hatred of the former regime, thousands of protesters demonstrated against the first-round result of the presidential elections.

Assuredly, at least an equal number of Egyptian voters are just as full of denunciations of the first-run candidate, Mohamed Mursi, the Muslim Brotherhood's man.  That the eventual run-off between the two to determine which of them will take the majority vote and become Egypt's new president, infuriates many.  Those who prefer to deny the Muslim Brotherhood the opportunity to completely Islamicize the country, and those who would vote for him to deny the presidency to a former Mubarak-era candidate.

"Revolutionaries!  Free!  We will complete the march!" they chanted, making their way through Cairo centre, close on Tahrir Square.  Frustration with the turn that the revolution toward a system approximating democracy that Egyptian secularists, socialist-minded and youth hankered for only to be disappointed at the obvious take-over by the Brotherhood and the Salafists is manifest.  They are impotent; disorganized and under-represented in numbers.

The candidates on the short end of the vote have complained to the electoral commission of irregularities, all of which complaints have been dismissed.  "I reject these results and do not recognize them", the message delivered by the former Brotherhood member, Abol Fotouh.  His claims that votes were bought, dismissed.  "Question marks", according to Amr Musa, marred the vote.  The leading question being how it was that he received a mere 10.9% of the vote.

The Al-Nour Salafists are now prepared to back Mohamed Mursi, consolidating their majority bloc in the parliament with the Freedom and Justice Party.  The Muslim Brotherhood, like most Islamists, know the value of words and though they are fundamentalist in attitude and outlook, they extol 'freedom and justice', although how they practise those virtuous promises might not reflect others' realities of freedom and justice.

But that's the future.

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In Pakistan ...

Four women and two men have been sentenced to death in northern Pakistan for singing and dancing at a wedding, police said Monday.  Clerics issued a decree after a mobile phone video emerged of the six enjoying themselves in a remote village in the mountainous district of Kohistan, north of Islamabad.

Pakistani authorities in the area said local clerics had ordered the punishment over allegations that the men and women danced and sang together in Gada village, in defiance of strict tribal customs that separate men and women at weddings. 

 "It was decided that the men will be killed first, but they ran away, so the women are safe for the moment", district police officer Abdul Majeed Afridi said, adding that the women had been confined to their homes.

Sadistic, emotional savagery, utterly primitive and malicious, destroying all that is joyful in human nature.  The modern technological conveniences reach even into the possession of medieval-minded holdbacks of another era, helping to entrap those unfortunate and unwary enough to fall into the trap of joy and celebration.

This is a region of Pakistan that remains impassively untouched by the modern era, living out lives of bondage and drudgery for women, as possessions of the men who marry them so they may produce children who will themselves be force-fed the ideology of a religion that demands complete surrender to the divine instructions of a god decreeing the inferior status of half his followers.

Where tribal heritage and religious imperatives are undeniably the fulcrum of daily life, and to defy the authority placed in those who present themselves as arbiters of permissible conduct is to invite condemnation.  Those who sit in judgement of others who step outside the boundaries of social demeanor condemning and sentencing to death, do god's will.. 

The men will doubtless remain unavailable for further punishment, outside exile.

The women will be able to appease the tribal demands of restorative honour only by the sacrifice of their lives, to become an unlamented symbol of what awaits those who defy the heritage of tribalism.

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Slaughtered Like Sheep

"The operation started about midday, with the use of about 50 or 60 mortar shells.  Then they started to use tanks and heavy artillery for two hours.
"After that they deployed about thirteen or fourteen cars with mounted guns, and raided houses at random.  They took people out and started shooting indiscriminately."  Mousab Azzawi, Syrian Network of Human Rights

"At about 7:00 p.m. on Friday, a lot of Shabiha came from three nearby Alawite villages.  They killed some kids by knife, some by gun and some by suffocation.  I saw with my eyes dozens of bodies of women and children."  Mohammed, Houla villager
Well over a hundred people were killed in Houla after Friday prayers.  There seems to be something especially alluring about prayers on Friday, committing those who attended the prayer sessions to renewed energy in defying their tyrannical masters, and endowing the regime with additional determination to destroy that opposition commitment by any means feasible.

Major-General Robert Mood, the UN mission chief in Syria, made it clear that his staff had counted at least thirty-two children butchered, "under the age of 10".  To the international community that represents a disgusting act, a horrible and depraved atrocity beyond the understand of civilized people.  Of course, there is nothing whatever civilized about the manner in which opposing sects and tribes view one another.

Their dedication to destroying one the other bespeaks acts of consummate self-righteousness.  For if the enemy is not destroyed, he will destroy you.  There is no room for compromise in the Arab/Muslim tradition.  There is a festering resentment that must be realized at some future date through successfully restoring one's honour, impugned and blackened by an adversary. 

Either that adversary will face his punishment at the moment, or at some time hence.

Bitterness and hatred related to tribal and religious divides must be assuaged.  Honour is too integral to the tribe's view of self to be set aside in a Western-inspired imperative to seek solutions in compromise.  One controls one's enemies by force and maintains a situation where they are neutered and live in a psychical bondage, or if they rise up in protest, they must then be destroyed.

"We are calling urgently on the Friends of Syria (U.S., France, Britain, Germany and Saudi Arabia) to create a military alliance, outside of the UN Security Council, to carry out targeted strikes against Assad's gangs and the symbols of his regime", pleaded General Mustafa Ahmed al-Sheikh, head of Turkey-based Free Syrian Army military council.

"Those who may contemplate supporting any side with weapons, military training or other military assistance, must reconsider such options to enable a sustained cessation of violence", Ban Ki-moon informed the Security Council by letter.  Ever the optimist.  Presumably, that is the prime emotional ingredient for any candidate for the office of chief of the United Nations.

"We're being slaughtered like sheep here. Where are the UN observers?", the villagers bleated helplessly once the Shabiha, regime-supporting civilian militiamen, had completed their work for the day.  They had moved in with alacrity with the departure of the military tanks and heavy artillery after their two-hour pounding.

The Shabiha, armed with knives and guns, slaughtered whole families, from grandparents to infants, working zealously well into the wee hours of the morning to complete their task.

"The people begged the observers to come with them to evacuate the bodies.  They refused to help us and they said that we should negotiate with the regime, and then they left."

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Tradition ... Heritage

People read the news and wonder how it could possibly be that other people, living elsewhere on the Globe, can find it possible to pick up deadly weapons and use them to deliberate effect, be they machine guns or machetes, to bloodily end the lives of other people; the elderly, women, children in particular.  It happens with grim regularity in the Middle East, in Africa.

These were, and remain, rigidly tribal societies.  Societies that imbibe loathing for other clans and tribes in their infancy through their society's cultural acceptance of suspicion and hatred for those not of their own.  Not of their own tribes, nor of their particular type of religion; or facets of worship and of symbols of a religion that has its basis in common, but not elements of its traditions.

Anything that serves to distinguish other clans and tribes from one's own and familiar rituals and values is enough to make an enemy of the despised other, always viewed as inferior, as a mortal enemy.  Each trying endlessly to gain the upper hand, by threats, intimidation, military action, and slaughter.  Children can be targeted and ruthlessly tortured and slaughtered because they are not seen as children but rather early stages of the adult that will become an enemy.

We see this happening in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in Somalia, in Libya, in Ethiopia, in Sudan, in Rwanda, in Dubai, in Democratic Republic of Congo and in many other places where restive and oppressed populations rise against their tyrants to express their anger and frustration over being seen as inferior because the religion they practise is not quite right, the tribe they come from lacks authenticity.

What occurred in Norway when Hans Gustav Breivik decided to emulate the viciously violent actions of Islamist jihadists to make his wildly anxious point, was an anomaly.  Generally speaking, these are not actions that have become common fare in the countries of the West.  It is in Arab and Muslim countries where these brutal antipathies flourish, in reflection of traditions that bespeak a Bedouin society.

In the Arab and Muslim world the two main branches of Islamic devotion, the Sunni and the Shia, are stridently opposed to one another.  And they both abhor other branches of Islam, like the Ahmadiyya, the Ismaili and the B'hai, all considered by Islamists to represent unforgivable lapses in devotion to Islam, as apostate religions, insulting to Allah.

The violence in Islam, sourced from fanatical Muslims dedicated to violent jihad is endemic within that circle, determined to do honour to their faith by conquering other, lesser faiths beneath the notice of Islam, and to bring the worship of Islam to the complete international audience in a final conquest of the world order. 

In due homage to their singularly awesome and peace-loving god.

Its rabidly ferocious face can be seen in the tribal areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan, in Iran and Iraq, in Saudi Arabia and now Egypt, and in fact anywhere the "Arab Spring" materialized as a movement initiated by those in the Arab/Muslim world seeing themselves as reformers opting for freedom and democracy, giving Islamist groups like the Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood the opening they have long awaited.

They will accomplish more, in the final analysis, than al-Qaeda and its many affiliates might ever have hoped to aspire to.

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Sana / AFP / Getty Images

 Sacred Slaughter

They were born, as are we all,
with tender flesh but not
of tender hearts.  Primitive savagery
was their inheritance, and it was
deliberately installed secure
within their tribal psyches
as a grim memorial to the past;
distant but never beyond memory.
Bitter rage and biting hatred
of those not of their superior clan
was carefully instilled as they
outgrew infancy to attain the
maturity of tribal justice and
the assurance that The Prophet
(may peace and blessings be upon him) 
approved only of their brand of Islam, 
scorning all others.  That scorched 
core of their hearts became the stone 
of heartlessness enabling the
pitiless slaughter of the feeble,
pregnant women, the aged and the
tender under-aged, silt upon the Earth,
better destroyed than to degrade
Islam with their sectarian impurities,
those miserable apostates, those
scum on the glorious face of Islam.
Horror to the compassionate
onlooker, the kuffar and infidels;
a blessed duty of those enjoined
to jihad and sacred martyrdom.

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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Back To (Tahrir) Square One?

The West has good reason to look on with fascination at the spectacle of the manner in which 'democracy' plays itself out in the Middle East.  The United States in particular, and the rest of the advanced democratic states with their liberal advocacy and general content with their system of governance, insisting its spread globally will cure all the ills of the world, has reason to double-think their urgent adoption in the Middle East.

Libya deposed its stunningly tyrannical ruler and now has a dysfunctional state, completely decentralized, with tribal animosities ensuring that disparate tribal-affiliated armed militias are free to roam, where sectarian violence rears its destructive head with impunity.  Not all that very surprising, in fact, given the experience with Iraq where an American-led invasion violently removed the Iraqi tyrant from power, replacing it with a U.S.-approved 'democratic' one.

A power-sharing parliament, where the majority Shia now rules over the previously-ruling minority Sunni; an uneasy alliance between Shia, Sunni and Kurd, which, since the departure of American military power and the complete hand-over to Iraq, to rule itself fairly and justly, has resorted to the same kind of autocratic exclusion as the previous administration.  Resulting in violent flare-ups of 'suicide' bombings in reflection of the sectarian divide and the incursion of 'terrorists'.

Christians beware, everywhere in the world of Islam, where brutal dictatorships that managed to balance the antipathy of tribalism and religious divides to their own methodology creating order and a certain level of security, have succumbed to 'liberty' and ' democracy'.  The new 'democratic' order, where the populations in North African and Arab countries have displaced tyranny with 'freedoms' now are ruled by Islamists who have little use for freedom and adapt universal Sharia law.

Egypt has surprised only the revolutionaries who marched in Tahrir Square demanding the ouster of President Mubarak, calling for an end to dictatorship, and the embrace of democracy.  That democracy has gained Egypt an Islamist parliament, soon to be joined by an Islamist executive administration and with the help of Salafists, full Sharia.  Unsurprisingly, seen as a threat by Coptic Christians.

How this can surprise even the most casual onlooker is a surprise unto itself.  The first 'democratic' election took place in the Palestinian Territories, and the wisdom of the electors was to install Hamas, an self-declared Islamist terror group to share governance with a secularist former terror group, latterly refined to the guise of a responsible, uncorrupted administration for the Palestinian people.

Voting in Egypt on the week-end for a president, who along with a new constitution and a representative parliament, would make a new Egypt that would be seen as a beacon of hope, social advancement, and trust in the Arab world has resulted in a stale-mate.  The Muslim Brotherhood candidate, with 60% of the votes cast now accounted for, had a slight edge on his former-regime presidential candidate.

The future holds the prospect of either a balance between the Muslim Brotherhood with its Islamist agenda, or the Egyptian military, with its power-retaining agenda, or a unified Muslim Brotherhood/Salafist government.  In which case no one bloc in the country will be satisfied.  The revolutionary youth with their leftist ideals of fairness, freedom, employment and subsidized food shudder at the prospect of Sharia-led Egypt.

But they experience feelings akin to helpless paroxysms of rage when they envision an extension of the previous military rule, vowing that were that to occur, they would agitate anew, holding ongoing protests at Tahrir Square and throughout the country to continue delivering their message denouncing and refusing the ongoing rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

Military rule graffiti Egypt
An Egyptian man walks past graffiti depicting members of the military council and reading 'Down with the military rule, no to military trials for civilians' near the defense ministry in the Abbassiya district of Cairo on April 29, 2012. (Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images)

"Either a killer or a fundamentalist?  Thank you very much, I don't want this country anymore", said one women's advocate and Tahrir Square alumnus.  And all the while Egypt stews in its broth of anger and uncertainty, its economy has suffered, security has become fraught with problems, as the once-hated police no longer operate with the impunity they once exhibited, and crime soars...

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Saturday, May 26, 2012

All Or Nothing

This is a refrain most beloved by the Islamic Republic of Iran.  They want it all, and they will have it all.  "All" in this sense is the achievement of the world's greatest and most destructive scientific, technological achievement; the ability to construct a nuclear weapon capable of obliterating life on a grand scale.  The better to chasten their enemies with, nudge, nudge: stand down or you won't stand at all.

Western interlocutors have a tendency to be most generous in speaking of relations with Iran.  Consider that the consensus opinion after the talks that just failed to produce anything of value in Baghdad are thought to have indicated progress despite a total lack of agreement on moving forward with anything, because Iran's usual intransigence was briefly lifted to agree to a meeting at all.

Iran put on its charm offensive.  Stowing away for the moment its usual truculence and demonstrating how utterly and entirely reasonable Tehran is in permitting the West to flagellate it over its perceived intention to produce nuclear weapons, when the truth is, as they keep insisting, their only intention is to produce fuel for completely peaceful means.  To which they are supremely entitled.

And for which their plans will not be forestalled simply because the West, and its creature the IAEA has misgivings about believing the truthfulness of the statements issued by an innocent and peace-minded regime. So reasonable, in fact, that it most helpfully assembled its own sterling list of counter-demands to balance those of the P-5+1. 

All that had to be agreed upon to secure total agreement from Iran was to agree that sanctions would be lifted.  And to agree further that those sanctions would not be re-imposed simply because of some totally irrelevant issue like Iran forgetting about some elements of its promises to suspend enrichment to 20% grade uranium.  And to forget too, how much the regime crowed in triumph, announcing to the world that it had achieved that breakthrough.

Overlook as well that it slipped the regime's mind to inform the IAEA of its intention to build a raid-proof bunker deep underground at the side of a mountain, further buttressed by tonnes of steel and cement.  A holy purpose; the achievement of nuclear power, in obeisance to Allah, who commanded it be done.  Its location close to the holy city of Qom no incidental occasion.

Incidentally, the IAEA's disclosure of uranium discovered to have been enriched well past 20% and to the 29% level seen as an unfortunate error, an oversight, an explicable by-product of firing up all those additional centrifuges that increased their number by 100% at Fordow, should be excused.  The world has been advised there was no malignant intention carrying it forward.

And the crux of the matter is that there will be no suspension of uranium refinement, as demanded of Iran.  For there is no incentive sufficient to persuade the Republic that it might represent itself as truly interested in peace, as it claims, and not the capability of threatening other states, then demonstrating that it can make good on its threat by staging a little demonstration project on Israel.

As it is, Iranian officials are more than a little fed up with the unreasonable and quite unfair paranoia directed toward it by those nervous Western states and the IAEA. They don't appreciate having their time wasted in such a manner.  "This is not a serious extension of what we discussed in Istanbul that offered step-by-step progress", said one in a huff.

Iran has maintained its dignity.  Its nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, offered a five-point counter proposal which was "comprehensive", containing "transparent and practical" measures.  Obviously wasted on the likes of the P-5+1 negotiators and Catherine Ashton.  Who claimed that they were experiencing some difficulties defining precisely what Iran's intention is.

Yet all is not lost.  Another meeting has been scheduled.  Russia to be the host, so much to the good.  "It was a tough day that involved a lot of work trying to clarify the Iranian responses and set up a follow-up process", according to one diplomat who was present.  Present, but obviously not all there.

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Equal Opportunity Advocates

Now that UN observers are, however begrudgingly, permitted to be 'on the ground' in Syria, they have been doing what they were tasked with; relaying data back to headquarters, as it were.  An investigation has concluded furthermore - amazingly enough for those blissfully ignorant of the traditions of the Middle East - that both 'sides' in the Syrian conflict; government and opposition have been indulging in vile human rights abuses.

Government forces have been, as charged by the opposition, executing entire families in their homes.  For their part, the rebels have distinguished themselves by reacting on cue, and torturing before killing those soldiers and government supporters unfortunate enough to fall into their hands.  Both of which simply indicate how skilled and committed Syrians are in flaying and butchering one another.

Nothing on Earth seems to spur on the kind of incandescent hatred that the Arab mind is capable of, like the very thought of another tribe, clan or another perspective on the manner in which Islam is to be regarded and worshipped gaining the ascendancy over their own, which is incomparably superior because it is their own, and furthermore personally endorsed by God himself.

"Entire families were executed in their homes - usually the family members of those opposing the government such as the family members of Colonel Riad al-Assad", observed the UN investigation, in reference to the head of the rebel Free Syrian Army and the unfortunate yet entirely predictable end his relatives experienced in being purged of their living essence.

The rebels, increasingly well armed and better organized than previously and acquiring greater confidence, have for their part, executed or tortured soldiers and supporters of the regime.  The investigators who wrote the report for the UN did so on the basis of their interviews with victims and witnesses, interviews that did not take place on Syrian soil.

Children, according to the investigation's conclusions, were frequent casualties of attacks on protests, and marches, as well as through bombardments by state forces on towns and villages where they live.  Rebels have not been above abducting civilians to hold them as ransom for any of their members held by the regime who have not yet been murdered.

In addition to which multiple reports have surfaced pointing at incidents where the insurgents have taken to summary executions of anyone suspected of collaborating with the regime.  A like fate awaits captured members of the regime's troops.  One could say with a certainty that the livid hatred of these Syrians against one another is clearly unappeasable but by blood and the exhalation of the last breath.

The former head of the Syrian National Council has bemoaned the incendiary disaffection between the opposition secularists and its Islamists which situation adds yet another irreconcilable dimension of rejecting ideologies to the already potent mixture of tribal and sectarian hatred.  His chummy willingness to ally himself with the Muslim Brotherhood is what led to his ouster.

The Arab Spring is the band-aid that is supposed to bring these little irritations to the bargaining table of surrendering to reason, for the greater goal of achieving Arab moderation on the way to modernity and reasonableness.  And, as that famously brilliant epic saying goes: "Good luck with that."

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Cold Case Breakthrough or Mental Breakdown?

Police are not fond of unsolved cases.  Particularly cases of murder.  All the more so when children are involved.  They know they've let down public expectations.  Children should be safe in a social environment.  They generally are, but not always.  They're such easy targets, trustful and fairly often good natured about being approached by a stranger.  Taught to be polite and respectful, all the more so.

It's difficult to imagine what kind of hell parents must live through each and every day of their lives with the knowledge that their child disappeared forever on the one day they finally agreed he was 'old enough' at age 6, to walk alone, to school.  Etan Patz simply vanished, never to be seen again on the day his parents decided he could take himself off to school, in 1979.

Now police have a man in custody.  The same man who as a youth of 19, had originally been a suspect in the child's disappearance.  But now, all those years later, at age 51, Pedro Hernandez suddenly decided to confess that he had lured the little boy, strangled him, placed his body in a bag, then a box, and left it, meaning to retrieve it for disposal at a later time.  But the box, he explained had gone.

"An individual now in custody has made statements to NYPD detectives implicating himself in the disappearance and death of Etan Patz 33 years ago", announced police commissioner Raymond Kelly.  There is some possibility that some of Mr. Hernandez's relatives provided "information they knew about him", claimed a police investigator.  "...Family members pointed investigators in his direction."

It would please the public and the police to find a neat and tidy answer to a dreadful and old mystery.  It would represent little comfort to the parents of the little boy, but it would seem finally that justice would have been realized.  The condition of 'closure' said to be so important and comforting to many, would be difficult to achieve without evidence, however.

The most meaningful evidence being, of course, the location, finally, of whatever was left of Etan Patz.
Just as he vanished into thin air as far as his parents, his society and the police understood, his little body, inserted into a bag, and then a box, conveniently also 'vanished'. 

And then it was disclosed by Mr. Hernandez's lawyer, that his quiet, subdued client has a history of mental illness.  Mental illness that includes hallucinations.  People admit to strange things.  They seek to incriminate themselves, to blame themselves, to hold themselves accountable and guilty for all manner of peculiar things.

Being mentally ill means that people do behave peculiarly.  If someone who is mentally ill makes a declaration can it be taken seriously?  It can, to a certain degree, but under the circumstances it can not possibly be seen as definitive.  There must be something substantiating.  And evidence would help a great deal.  There is no evidence.

 There is no discernible motive for Mr. Hernandez as a young man of 19 to have taken the life of a child.  Without motivation, without evidence, with simply the self-implicating admission of a man with a sick mind, precisely what have the police got?  Can Mr. Hernandez be prosecuted in a court of law for a dreadful act he claims to have committed so many years ago with nothing to back his claim?

Tellingly enough, he has been taken to Bellevue Hospital where he has been placed on a suicide watch.
There are now questions being bandied about respecting the alacrity with which police acted in the absence of evidence.  "There was no way we could release the man who had just confessed to having killed Etan Patz", the police department's chief spokesman said.

"It would be unusual, to say the least, to release someone who confessed to a murder."  Such a confession, however, under the peculiar circumstances that have presented themselves, should be taken cautiously, and an appropriate investigation embarked upon.  Due diligence was not observed here, and it does not appear as though there is much to build a case of guilt upon.

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Friday, May 25, 2012

Life In Prison/Death Sentence

Not much of a life if it must be spent in incarceration.  That represents the prospective future for Naser Jason Abdo, convicted on six charges in connection with a failed plot to blow up a restaurant in Texas crammed full of Fort Hood troops.  He was on a mission of 'justice' to compensate the people of Iraq and Afghanistan for the miseries laid upon them by American forces.

Of whom, incidentally, Naser Jason Abdo was one.  His attack planned for the Fort Hood area came about as a result of his having served as a U.S. serviceman in Afghanistan, and the attack spoke to how he felt about what he saw and experienced there.  "...Because I don't appreciate what my unit did in Afghanistan", he said in explanation of his planned attack.

Evidently he started out as a loyal American.  There is no conscription in the United States of America.  If he went to Afghanistan it was because he chose to join the U.S. military.  And if that was his choice it would have been because he saw that as a calling for a good and loyal American.  Perhaps that loyalty failed to penetrate as deeply as one might have imagined.

War is never pretty.  And Naser Jason Abdo obviously identified far more deeply with Muslim Afghans, whatever their social condition, than he did with his fellow Americans with whom he had shared a way of life and presumably, social values.  As an indication of just how deeply engrained in someone's consciousness fealty to a religion can be in shaping their world view, this is a demonstration of just that in Islam.

It took jurors in U.S. District Court in Waco a tad over an hour before finding Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo guilty of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, attempted murder of U.S. officers or employees, and four counts of possessing a weapon in furtherance of a federal crime of violence.

Pfc. Abdo, 22 years of age, had absented himself without leave from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and was found at a Killeen motel with the makings of a bomb he had not yet completed.  Along with bomb-making components there was a loaded gun, rounds of ammunition, stun gun and other assorted items in his backpack.

This is by no means the first Fort Hood incident; the first was far more successful for the jihadist who has made it abundantly clear that his reasons to turn against his country were similar to Pfc. Abdo's.  U.S. Army Major, psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hasan of Palestinian descent is charged with thirteen counts of premeditated murder, 32 counts of attempted murder.

On November 5, 2009 he attacked at Fort Hood, the busiest, most populated American military installation in the world just outside Killeen, Texas.  Killing thirteen and wounding twenty-nine other servicemen.  Representing the worst such incident ever to have taken place at an American military base.

Should Major Hasan be convicted on all charges he may be given a death sentence.  Whereas it is not known whether Pcf. Abdo behaved suspiciously and erratically up to the time he was apprehended, Major Hasan most certainly did.  Yet his obvious conversion to fundamentalist Islamism and his startling statements heard by many of his colleagues caused no heads to turn.

Had a serious attempt been made to investigate the man's state of mind and complete immersion in violent Islamist jihadist thinking, a slaughter might have been averted.

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Scotland Yard was aware, they knew because MI5 had informed them that some of the officers in their ranks were suspected of having attended terrorist training camps.  And because those particular police officers had been identified, there were very careful investigations carried out to clarify whether the suspicions had any degree of accuracy.  And they did. 

They were identified as "sleepers" in the ranks of Scotland Yard.

The result of which was that their security clearances were revoked by senior officers.  One man's identity has never been revealed, although the investigation did conclude positively that there had been attendance at a terror camp.  Others, however, were publicly identified.  One of whom had been a member of the constabulary for three years when the MI5 warning came.

He had travelled to Pakistan and it had been suspected he had been at a training camp while in the country.  He wasn't dismissed from the force, but chose to resign.  And he chose also to sue Scotland Yard, claiming to be innocent and that accusations he had been to a terror training camp represented an unsupportable slur. 

According to his lawyers he was never questioned, arrested or charged under terrorism legislation.

Abdul Rahman, 33 years of age, bears the distinction of representing the first British police officer ever to have failed counter-terrorism checks.  As far as is known publicly.  As far as Scotland Yard is concerned it took action "for the purpose of safeguarding national and public security."  Unnamed sources indicate there were another one or two of whom MI5 was suspicious.

"There was concern that these people had come into the force under false pretenses.  There were two or three cases at the same time that were of a similar nature, where there were concerns about potential terrorist links", explained a senior Metropolitan Police source.

This was a man born in Bangladesh and raised in London, then finally becoming a British citizen.  He hasn't argued that he did not travel to Pakistan in 2001.  A lengthy legal battle is in progress over his departure from the force.  The case is being heard by a security-vetted judge. 

His clearance had been revoked during a security review by MI5 after a terrorist attack in Britain in July 2005.

That only one or two or possibly three such underground "sleepers" have been identified in the years since 2001 and the attacks on Britain subsequent to that date represents the surprise, given the religious-ideological intrigues and sermons that have taken place in British mosques with seeming impunity.

Islamists have taken very readily to using the social justice instruments inherent in British law to their advantage, playing little games of hide-and-seek with authorities, urging the faithful to be loyal to Islamist jihad.

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US Senate Redefines 'Palestinian Refugee'

by Gabe Kahn & Rachel Hirshfeld US Senate Redefines 'Palestinian Refugee'

The US State Department and Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan are trying to block a Senate bill that would require an accurate accounting of how many 'Palestinian refugees' receive American aid dollars.

The push came after the US Senate Appropriations Committee approved on Thursday language that would distinguish between Arabs who fled Israel in 1948 and their descendants.

The new language, introduced by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), seeks to distinguish between those "whose place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948 and who were displaced as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict; and who are descendants" of those people.

Using the new language, the US definition of who is a 'Palestinian refugee' would drop from 5 million to 30,000, which could directly impact the 1.2 billion in aid dollars the US pumps into the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) agency each year.

UNRWA, the main body assisting 'Palestinians refugees,' unlike other UN agencies, assigns refugee status to descendants of Arabs who fled the area during the 1948-1949 war, although in its definition it is careful to distinguish between the two populations.

Globally, all other refugees receive assistance from the UN High Commission for Refugees, which conforms to international conventions and does not confer refugee status on the descendants of refugees.

Nonetheless, the State Department formally expressed concerns about the language in the amendment, but Kirk prevailed.

“The amendment simply demands basic transparency with regard to who receives U.S. taxpayer assistance," he said.

But now, Jordan – where large portions of UNRWA expenditures go to the so-called refugee camps in Jordan – is also lobbying the Senate not to amend the appropriations bill.

For Jordan – of whose 5.9 million residents 1.9 million are formally defined as 'Palestinian refugees' by UNRWA –  the amendment poses a daunting fiscal, legal and political problem.

Like other Arab nations, Amman has elected to define the children and grandchildren of Arabs who fled Israel in 1948 despite their having been born on Jordanian soil.

Arab leaders claim they refuse to grant citizenship to the descendants of Arabs who fled Israel in 1948 "to avoid dissolution of their identity and protect their right to return to their homeland."

However, Tashbih Sayyed, a fellow of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, has written the end result is that millions of native born residents in Arab countries are treated as second class citizens.

They "cling to the illusion that defeating the Jews will restore their dignity," he wrote of the justification Arab leaders employ in order ignore UN conventions that seek to reduce statelessness.

Were the US to effectively defund UNRWA, it would realign US policy with Israeli policy and provide Jerusalem with diplomatic leverage with which to nullify the so-called 'right of return' in peace talks.

"This will have major implications for future negotiations over final status issues with regard to refugees," said a senior Senate aide.

The so-called 'right of Return is a 'right' many claim had been contrived to further the 'Palestinian cause' and de-legitimize the State of Israel, is one of the thorniest issues with regard to the conflict and continually results in a stalemate in negotiations.

It has long been asserted that if Israel were to concede to Palestinian Authority demands, it would no longer be able to retain its Jewish character and would thus be stripped of the very ideals upon which the state was established.

While the landmark bill is expected to draw the wrath of the Arab world and ‘Palestinian’ liberation movements, it is also expected to be a step in restoring the fundamental, but long overlooked, truths behind the Mideast conflict.

Palestinian Authority negotiators have previously suggested they would concede the 'right of return' in exchange for a final status package.

As published online at ArutzSheva, 25 May 2012

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